WHAT do you do with an old 1967 Pontiac Firebird that’s falling to bits, with broken suspension components, rotted-through floors and a ceased-up engine? Given enough time and funds, you could definitely do a full resto on it, like what Sidchrome did with its Mach 1 Mustang. But American bloke Bill Manzke decided to do something completely left of field and somewhat controversial, and mate the still mostly intact Firebird shell with the underpinnings of an entirely different car.
Maybe you’d pick something like a modern Camaro or Holden Monaro-based Pontiac GTO, or an older Corvette? Nope, Bill has taken a different route and chosen the Toyota Prius hybrid – he’s called the project the ‘Firebrid’. Front-wheel drive and powered by a combination of a four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motors, it is the exact opposite of a muscle car. It’s like taking a Prius and converting it to rear-drive with a blown V8! Wait, someone has actually done that, too.
Bill comes from an engineering background, and decided to do this wacky project at home in the shed after noticing that the Prius and his Firebird convertible had very similar wheelbases and wheel sizes. He also wanted the driveability of a modern car like his Prius daily driver, but in the car he grew up in.
Bill found a totalled nearly new 2014 Prius at a salvage auction. It had been in a roll-over accident, but since he only needed the floor, suspension and drivetrain, it was perfectly suited to his plans. It took a few days to cut away the entire body from the Prius, leaving just the floor, suspension strut towers and running gear.
Next it was time to chop up the Firebird and peel the body away from its chassis. Once freed, Bill cut away things like the wheel tubs and the parcel shelf to make space for the bulky Prius parts.
Then he dropped the Firebird body onto the Prius underpinnings. Like fitting out a hamburger with sushi, it didn’t quite work. Because the Firebird body curves down and around the sills, it was narrower than the Prius, and the front was too short to accommodate the Prius’s vast cooling system.
To rectify this, Bill is at the stage of modifying the Firebird body by stretching the front panels. He’s also trimming down the Prius sills and modifying the Pontiac to get them to work together somehow.
We’ll be interested to see how this one turns out. Let us know whether you reckon it’s sacrilege or genius.
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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